United can rest key players for Galatasaray trip
(AP Photo/Jon Super)
By STEVE DOUGLAS
AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie were two of the big names kept at home by Manchester United as the already-qualified English team traveled to Galatasaray for Tuesday's match Champions League.
With first place in the group already secured after four straight wins, United coach Alex Ferguson took full opportunity to rest the team's top players to save their legs for the Premier League.
Rooney was back in training on Monday after missing Saturday's 1-0 loss to Norwich in the Premier League because of tonsillitis, but was missing from the squad of 21 players that boarded the flight to Istanbul.
Van Persie, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David de Gea will also stay in England.
It's a far cry from last season's struggles in the competition, when the three-time winners surprisingly failed to reach the knockout stage.
"It is a happier place because of what we are doing in the Champions League," United midfielder Michael Carrick said. "Last year we were chasing our tails a bit and came up short. This year we have been ahead of the game.
"Getting those wins and points on the board makes it an awful lot easier."
United's position gives Galatasaray a better chance of a win that would keep the Turkish team in second place and favorite to qualify with United. Cluj hosts Braga in the other group match, with the three teams below United separated by only one point.
Looking for a first European home win since 2009, Galatasaray comes into the match on the back of a disappointing 3-1 home loss to unheralded Karabukspor in the Turkish Super League game on Friday. It didn't stop Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim sounding upbeat.
"Galatasaray has a European reflex - we show this reflex even in our worst moments," Terim said. "From minute one, the crowd will be gushing support for (Galatasaray). If we beat Manchester United, this confidence will carry us further."
The situation in the group could have been a lot different had United not come away with a slightly fortunate 1-0 victory from its home match against Galatasaray to open the group. The visitors had enough chances to draw, even win, the game at Old Trafford.
Now, United can sit back and watch on as a host of top European sides - including Chelsea, Manchester City, Juventus and AC Milan - struggle to qualify for the knockout stage.
"You can drive yourself mad thinking about who you might get and all the various permutations," Carrick said, in reference to United's possible opponents in the last 16. "We just have to win our games, which we have done, and see what the draw gives us. Whoever it is, we will be ready in February."
Updated November 19, 2012